President Barack Obama said Congress should take one step toward overhauling the country's immigration system by passing the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for some children of undocumented migrants.
In an interview with Oakland, California-based Radio Bilingue that was rebroadcast Wednesday via Internet, Obama said his administration prioritizes the deportation of undocumented immigrants with criminal records and tries to avoid separating families.The president said his administration is doing all it can to make the immigration system more humane, but that the most important priority is to fix the country's immigration laws.
He noted that during his State of the Union address last month he urged lawmakers to approve the DREAM Act, which passed the House of Representatives in December 2010 but has stalled in the Senate. That bill would offer permanent residence to undocumented high school graduates who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces or attend college.
Obama said that legislation should be a priority this year, although he lamented that hard-line Republicans were refusing to work in a bipartisan fashion on the issue. According to the president, it is important that Congress listen to the Hispanic community and other communities affected by the country's broken immigration system.
An estimated 5,000 U.S. children whose parents have been deported or detained because of their immigration status have been placed in state foster care nationwide, according to an investigation made public late last year by the Applied Research Center. Obama has acknowledged that his administration's enforcement policies have caused the break-up of families in some instances and pledged to ensure that children are not separated from their parents without due process.
The president, who will seek re-election in November, supports a "comprehensive" immigration overhaul that would strengthen border security while simultaneously putting many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States on a path to citizenship.
By contrast, most of the candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination, who on Wednesday squared off in a debate in Arizona, oppose such a plan because they say it would provide amnesty for lawbreakers.